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CEOs discuss working with government in 2021

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Good morning.

About 100 CEOs participated in the Fortune CEO Initiative’s virtual meeting yesterday, focusing on priorities for business collaboration with government in the year ahead. Most of the discussion was off the record. But the session began with a few on the record briefings on key topics. Some excerpts:

On fighting the coronavirus:

“Right now, for most of these new variants, the results are terrific…We do not believe the performance of the vaccine will be affected.  (Eventually) a variant that will escape the vaccine protection is likely to occur.  So we are investing big time right now into the surveillance network that will very rapidly identify when and if we have a problem, and then very rapidly will create a booster that will allow us to cover this new variant as well.”
—Albert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer

“We have built the capacity to administer up to 25 million vaccines a month in our retail pharmacies…Hopefully, as we get to that June-July time frame …we will have a large enough number of Americans vaccinated where we can begin to talk about herd immunity.”
—Larry Merlo, CEO, CVS

On fighting climate change:

“I think we will look back and see ’21-‘22 as an inflection point that allowed us to start driving mass adoption of electric vehicles… Just today we announced that our plans are to be carbon neutral by 2040, and that we are aspiring to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light duty vehicles by 2035.”
—Mary Barra, CEO, GM

“2021 looks like an historic year in many respects.  On the climate issue…we have definitely shifted the dialogue from the ‘why’ and are now focused fully on the ‘how’.”
—Jesper Brodin, CEO, IKEA

“After all these years of trying to encourage corporate social and environmental responsibility, and having a certain amount of difficulty trying to raise awareness despite endless different initiatives, suddenly it seems the dams are beginning to burst and people are now taking a real interest in this, particularly, if I may say so, a lot more of the investors, a lot more of the shareholders. And of course, as many of you know all too well, you have a lot of younger employees who take these issues very seriously indeed.”
—His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

On tech regulation:

“You may have heard, Twitter and Facebook, we banned a president. And there is a lot of concern that we shouldn’t have the power to do that. And we share that concern. We’ve been calling for content regulation, legislation, guidelines, anything, at a national or international level for a long time. And I think this experience makes very clear how much that legislation is needed.”
—Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

More news below.  And check out former Walmart executive Leslie Dach’s Fortune commentary arguing that the ban on corporate PAC contributions to “Republican members who tried to undermine our democracy” should continue “through the next time those members are up for reelection….In a nation swirling with misinformation and moral equivalence, the business community can be a voice for facts and truth.”

Alan Murray

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